I’ve deliberately left my “look back” to the end of the pile so that it doesn’t look like I’m being all “look at me, I’m the boss”. After all, they know I’m the boss. It says so on my mug and t-shirt. It also means that I can see what everyone else has thought of the year and I can check out the albums they’ve put forward and so on. Which is useful as I’m a doddery old git with a poor memory.
2016 has been an incredible year for this site. We’ve probably tripled the number of people working on it (though lost a couple along the way), our facebook presence is increasing exponentially (look at the graphs, I’m using the term correctly), we registered as a company, we’ve restructured and redesigned the site… and you’ve no idea what we’ve got coming your way in 2017. James pointed me at my waffle from the start of 2016, the tail end in particular:
We don’t have any major plans as such for this year…
Well, I can tell you that this couldn’t be further from the truth for 2017. I’m not at liberty to start chucking details around, but 2017 is going to be huge for this site. With a bigger team, some structure in place, the faith of some incredible people within the industry and the feedback from you guys out there… expect something special!
Best New Album
I don’t review as much as many people do here, and I tend to listen to the older stuff more often than new albums mainly due to a lack of time. As such I’ve missed out on what I’ve been told are some absolute belters (Gojira and The Virginmarys seem to be going down a storm). So from my limited collection come the following in no order at all…
- Pain – Coming Home
- A superb variety of songs, and one that’s stuck on my mp3 player since I gave it its first listen
- Megadeth – Dystopia
- The best album from the most recent round of releases from the Big 4 (IMHO). In fairness I’ve not had a chance to listen to Metallica’s yet!
- Hatebreed – The Concrete Confessional
- Solid, reliable and one of the best live acts going, Hatebreed have done themselves proud with this one
- Footprints in the Custard – The Descent of Decency
- As good recorded as they are live, and a nice bunch of guys, Footprints have a great humorous album here
- Ryan Hamilton & the Traitors – The Devil’s in the Detail
- It’s been incredible following Ryan’s journey over the last couple of years, and to see it continuing with a new band and a great new release has been a highlight of the year
- Sabaton – The Last Stand
- It was a tossup between this and their live release, but this is such a strong album full of new material that it just had to win it
- Fosseway – Ultrasound
- Yeah, you may have missed this one amongst all the big names but it’s your loss. An incredible release from a bunch of schoolkids from Tyneside, many artists on much larger budgets could learn a lesson or two about songwriting from these guys
- Ricky Warwick – When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (And Guy Mitchell Sang The Blues) / Hearts On Trees
- OK, so this is two albums but they’re both superb and complement each other perfectly
- Bowling For Soup – Acoustic in a Freakin’ English Church
- Specifically the DVD release which captures the live show perfectly, and makes me really wish they’d start doing these acoustic tours again
Best New Band I Discovered
- A band at the opposite end of the heaviness scale from my overall winner, Sodomized Cadaver. Great fun at Bloodstock and an act I’m definitely looking forward to seeing again sometime.
- Mental loons Footprints in the Custard also impressed both live and on record, although I’m scarred by the mankinis.
- Massive Wagons were incredible opening for Ginger and at Wildfire, and I’ve heard great things about their recent shows with Colour of Noise, too.
But glance at the album list above and it should pop out. Despite many other contenders this year, mainly support acts at gigs and smaller bands at festivals, Fosseway blew me away. The depth and emotion present in the half dozen tracks, especially “Never Again”, belies their ages.
Best Live Show
Quite a few to pick from. Kunt & The Gang’s farewell show, Massive Wagons opening for Ginger, Burning the Dream’s “bugger it, we’re here for fun” performance at Wildfire, another top show from Patent Pending… but I’ve narrowed it down to three for very different reasons:
Sabaton / Alestorm in March – my son’s first ever proper gig, the day before his 8th birthday. The bands and the staff at Barrowlands were all incredible and he is still asking when he can see Sabaton again. A great gig by any standards, but being there with my boy… priceless.
An Evening With Machine Head – also in March and an incredible near three-hour show from one of my favourite bands…. and there were still more songs I wish they’d played. Another round next year, please, Robb!
Twisted Sister at Bloodstock – if you were there, you’ll know why. If you weren’t then someone who was will tell you. The performance was exquisite, the emotion raw. Incomparable.
Best Thing That Happened
Then there was the incredible news that Rock Radio Glasgow would be returning, with the original cast and crew, as their bid blew others out of the water. This was all the sweeter as we (at least felt that we) were a part of the push to make this happen. Credit, in the main, must go to the hard work of Team Rock Radio and the general public who pestered Ofcom something rotten.
I’m going to delve into the live side of things and re-mention the Sabaton show. I pulled the “I’ve done you a lot of favours and you’re lovely and your label are lovely and your PR are lovely” card (it’s a shiny silver one and rarer than the rarest Pokémon) and got my son backstage to meet Sabaton at the Glasgow show. The guys were incredible, posed for pictures, treated him like a really special guest and gave him some gifts we’ve had framed. Nothing can beat seeing him so happy. Nothing.
Worst Thing That Happened
Aside from the obvious celebrity losses this year (and since I drafted this post initially, several more have been taken from us), I’m going to have to head back to Bloodstock again… and the fact that our audio recordings got mangled for all bar four of our interviews. “Gutted” is an understatement.
Again I would like to say a huge “thanks”, first to all the PRs and bands who were incredibly understanding and didn’t start burning effigies with our faces on… but a huger thanks to PlanetMosh for not hesitating in saying we could re-use their material to help make it up to the bands whose recordings we lost. I hope we never have to return the favour!
A late addition, as I wrote this article before the news broke, but awful to hear of Team Rock going bust and taking Metal Hammer with it. Hammer was, for years, “the one that wasn’t Kerrang and therefore was worth reading”. Here’s hoping the staff and mag are back at some point.
Best Picture I Took This Year
I don’t do much photography any more as we have far more shutterbugs than we used to and they’re all very, very good indeed at what they do. I just take 900 photos and use the three that don’t turn out like crap. However, I have been particularly pleased with a couple I took this year and this is the one I entered into our in-house competition. It’s of Dan Patlansky opening for King King.
Overall View of the Year
Well, let’s be honest, it’s been incredible. I’ve noticed a definite increase in the number of mini-festivals featuring “smaller” bands, which has heartened me considerably. “Our” music – whether that’s indie or extreme metal, pop-punk or thrash – is surviving and thriving. Huge stadium bands are still going and, I fear, will disappear in the near future but there will always be bands to see in the small to medium sized venues and, let’s face it, these are the most enjoyable anyway.
That’s not to say we should start waving goodbye to our stalwarts as yet. The likes of Maiden, Anthrax, Testament, Sepultura… they’re all still cranking out some quality stuff and don’t seem ready to slip into a comfortable bath chair quite yet.
No, the future’s good. The future’s metal. And rock. And blues. And punk. And… it’s good.
Everyone else has finished on a “thank you” and I’m not going to be an exception. However, I’m going to resist the OSCARs-level lists as I’ll be repeating what a lot of the Crew have said already so:
First off – all the bands, tour managers, road crew, PRs, security staff, venue staff and labels… we love you all.
Secondly – to the Crew on this site… bloody hell. Not just the number of you, but how good you’ve all got. How adaptable you’ve all been to the big internal changes since September. How none of you have tried to have me killed. For that alone you have my gratitude.
Thirdly – you lot reading this. You know why. You’ve been told enough in the previous articles. High five, wipe that grin off your face.
Finally – and most importantly – my wife. For the last two or three years I kept saying I’d step back a little, spend less time on the site, more on being a father and a husband… and every time I kept getting drawn back in. This year, though, she’s excelled herself. Or given up. Either way, she’s been pushing me to make the changes that needed to be made, discussed ideas, assisted with the company registration, helped with admin… While I appreciate every member of the Crew more than I think they realise, the site simply wouldn’t be what it is, or indeed might not even be, without the patience and understanding of ‘er indoors. Thank you, Gillian, I love you. It’s only going to get worse next year, by the way. Don’t leave me.